I am fascinated by the concept that boundaries and restraint provide opportunity for freedom and even increase freedom. This idea is different from the common perception in our individualistic American culture that freedom is the pursuit of doing whatever we wish without any boundaries or restraints.
There are plenty of examples in life that illustrate how boundaries protect us and enable us to experience freedom. For example, consider the rules of the road. Though we sometimes wonder whether drivers follow any rules at all on the Palmetto Expressway, we can understand that the rules are in place to promote safety. Can you imagine highways and roadways where there were no rules about the side of the road on which we must drive, no lines on the roads, no signs, no speed limits, and no stop lights? The rules of the road do not take away our freedom as drivers; rather, they provide freedom – freedom to drive with little stress or fear, freedom to get to our destination safely, freedom to drive a small car without worrying that an oversized truck will use its size to dominate the roadway. Guardrails along a bridge do not limit our freedom; guardrails keep us on the road so that we can safely experience freedom without careening off the bridge into disaster.
As a father, when my boys were young, I put guidelines and rules in place to protect their freedom. They could play outside in our fenced yard but not outside the picket fence. The fence was a boundary, but it did not steal their freedom; rather, it gave them freedom – freedom to play safely without fear of traffic and other dangers outside the boundary. Rules, norms, and expectations in organizations and even in our school are meant to provide a framework for us to be free to learn, socialize, and play in an environment that is safe and secure.
The Bible teaches that we find freedom in Christ as a new creation and the guidelines He outlines for us increase and maximize our freedom. As Christians, we find freedom when we find Jesus. Without Christ, we are in bondage to sin.
As humans, we are born into sin, and we have no choice in the matter; our identity is sinful. The Bible uses the language “slaves to sin” to describe this situation. Though we are born into this condition as slaves to sin, we are given the opportunity to respond to Jesus, to be released from this bondage, and become slaves to righteousness.
Romans 6:17-19 outlines a dichotomy: We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. If we become a Christ-follower, we become slaves to righteousness and we are no longer slaves to sin, as our new identity is in Christ. In one of the mysteries of God’s kingdom, this new identity as slaves of righteousness gives us freedom!
We are free to be forgiven and free to live without guilt. We are free from the controlling power of sin. We are free from the penalties of sin and free to receive the gift of eternal life. We are free to have a dynamic relationship with God. We are free to choose things that please God. If we join the ranks of the righteous, we serve a new master and find true freedom in Christ. Living a righteous life is only possible when Christ indwells us and is about being released from the bondage of our sinful nature and finding freedom in Jesus. When we trade our identity as slaves to our sin nature for a new identity as slaves to righteousness, we are joining the ranks of the righteous with new lives and freedom in Christ!